COLUMBIA— At 4 p.m. the downtown location of Shakespeare's Pizza is a little slow. Only a few customers occupy the tables, and the staff behind the counter sings along with "Beautiful Oblivion" playing over the speakers.
But once evening comes and dinnertime rolls around, Shakespeare's overflows with customers. It's this reason that the Shakespeare's chain is expanding to a third Columbia location.
"Have you ever been here at 7 o’clock on Friday night?" general manager Kurt Mirtsching said. "You can't get in the place. Same with the west store, because lots and lots of people flatter us by coming here an awful lot. We're packed."
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Plans to open a new location in south Columbia — in a vacant strip center at 3911 Peachtree Drive — are in the works. No exact date is set yet, but Mirtsching said he aims to open this spring.
Although the new location is more than double the size of the other two locations, there are no plans to make major changes to the popular pizza place.
"We're going to try and emulate and duplicate everything we can," Mirtsching said. "We're going to add some things behind the scenes that will make it function a little better with the layout and the operation of the restaurant, but hopefully from the customers' side of things, it'll be the same thing."
The new location will have an estimated seating capacity of 250 in the main dining room, approximately 150 or so in private party rooms and a patio that seats about 50.
Shakespeare's began surveying its customers about a year ago. Employees asked customers where they came from to visit Shakespeare's. The results showed most of their customers came from the southern part of Columbia, Mirtsching said.
New employees will be placed at the downtown and west locations, and current employees from the two existing locations will move to the new building, he said.
"I've been waiting for a year," Mirtsching said. "We have a great gang here, and we're really excited about it."